So, in 2015, twelve of us wrote about A Heartwarming Christmas. I still think about Eli and Cass and how they came together at such a magical time.
A Heartwarming Holiday, covering all the holidays from Thanksgiving through Christmas but staying in Christmas Town, Maine, where it all began.
This year, there are ten of us, and we wrote about Heartwarming Holiday Wishes, with the magic stocking from 2016 figuring into this year's stories. I can't wait to see where the stocking shows up in everyone else's stories! The set is available for pre-order now, and here are the new cover. Isn't it beautiful?
Here is the one that goes with my novella within the book, Miracle on Joyful Street. I love the snow globe on the covers, don't you?
Here's a little bit from the unedited manuscript. I'm sure parts of it will change--I just wanted you to meet Dallas and Shea.
People called Dallas Blessing “Marian the Librarian” from the time she started going to the Christmas Town Library after school. She’d been in the second semester of kindergarten and the only books she could actually read were the ones on shelves under the window seat. The sign on the wall said those books were reserved for “K-3,” but by the time she entered second grade, she’d finished all of them and was reading from the section that was categorized for “4-6.”
Sometimes she had to look up words in the red Merriam-Webster Dictionary that lay open on a table in the adult section. There was a paperback dictionary at home on the same shelf as the phone book and Old Farmer’s Almanac, but she loved the big, hardback edition the library offered. She’d determine the definition for “juxtaposition” and then end up reading the whole page.
Her grandparents, who’d raised her from the time she’d become their foster child at five, and Gloria Bright, the library director, thought she was a prodigy. At least until she failed long division. That was when they had to accept that instead of being gifted, Dallas was just quirky.
“There’s nothing wrong with quirky,” Grandma Grace had insisted as she and Granddad taught Dallas to jump Double Dutch on the sidewalk in front of the house on Reindeer River where Dallas still lived. “Failing just because you never tried, now that’s just wrong.”
The library closed for Thanksgiving weekend—it was the only time of year it didn’t open for four consecutive days. Not that it made much difference in the scheme of things. She always spent the whole weekend clearing paper pilgrims and turkeys off the bulletin boards and replacing all the autumn books and movies on the holiday shelves with Christmas ones. She hung fairy lights everywhere and set up the seating area so Santa’s Saturday morning visits would be cozy. She put up the tree Pat Nolan would have delivered on Wednesday night and set out the ornament-making supplies at the tables in every department. People might not come to the library with the intent of making a stocking or a felt snowman to put on the tree, but they usually ended up doing it anyway. It was one of Dallas’s favorite traditions. Of course, she loved them all. Christmas, and Grandma Grace—widowed these last ten years—were what kept her in Christmas Town, Maine.
It bothered her sometimes, that she really had turned into the stereotypical Marian. Not that she disliked her life, or even being single, although the truth was that as friendly as everyone in Christmas Town was, its residents tended to travel in pairs.
Friends plus the patrons at the library, along with Grandma Grace, were all the family she really needed, but sometimes at the end of the day, when she went to bed in her neat little brick house in its neat setting on the inside of a curve in the Reindeer River, she longed for...clutter.
She laughed at herself, looking around at the toys and books left there after the afternoon’s rousing Dr. Seuss read-a-thon. She always kept the kids extra time on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, because it gave their mothers and caregivers time for last-minute stuff they needed to do in preparation for the next day.
There was plenty of clutter here, even if the rest of her life was far too neat. She cleaned the toys as she put them away, wondering how librarians had ever managed without pre-moistened wipes. Her hands stilled as the knowledge that the library probably wasn’t going to exist all that much longer sank in. It did that several times a day, and each time was more painful than the last.
Sitting in a rocking chair with the resident doll in her lap, she straightened the toy’s yarn hair and red print dress. Raggedy Ann had been a gift from her father and had lived in the library since the first time Dallas accidentally left her there.
It had all been so long ago.
She shook the melancholy thoughts off. No matter what the new year promised—or threatened—the holidays loomed joyfully in front of her. Holidays were good for quirky people.
With a wry smile at no one, she reflected that quirky didn’t look any better from the vantage point of thirty-three than it had twenty-some years before, and it was a good deal lonelier. “Every time I make a new friend,” she’d told Ellie Griffith, who managed the Fingers and Feet sock shop, “she gets married on me or has a baby and I’m back to washing my hair and clipping my toenails on Saturday nights because once againthere’s no one to go to the movies with.”
Ellie had laughed with her and refilled their wine glasses, but she’d already been engaged to Pat Nolan, and there weren’t that many more girls-only Saturday nights.
“Dallas, is that you?”
It was tempting to ask who else would be dressed as a Dr. Seuss character, complete with red-and-white striped stockings, but since the library was still technically open and the voice was somehow familiar, she restrained herself. She got to her feet and went to the desk. “Yes, it is. May I help you?”
The visitor took off his stocking cap and smiled, his teeth bright and straight through his beard. “It’s me. Shea Nolan. Ellie and Pat asked me to come by and pick you up for supper. Ellie said not to take no for an answer.”
The Nolan boys’ parents had passed on some pretty impressive genes. Shea, the oldest, was also the tallest. His black hair and neatly trimmed beard, along with dark brown eyes surrounded by lashes so long they tangled with themselves, made her heart do a hungry and completely un-Marian-like leap.
Not for the first time. The man was the only person in the world able to render her speechless just by smiling at her. And he smiled a lot.